Welcome back to Super Vision, a column dedicated to supervisors and interns! Be sure to check out the inaugural column Developing Your SSW Ethos.
Crisis manager, consultant, therapist, advocate, liaison, district team member, interventionist, case manager, evaluator, building trainer, and supervisor are just some of the hats you will wear as a school social worker. As a school social work intern, its easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of roles and tasks set before you. There is a mountain of information, training, and experience required to even attempt some of the roles listed. Furthermore, school districts may even limit interns from engaging in certain roles due to liability issues.
The benefits of an intern far outweigh the work of supervision but it’s important to acknowledge the additional work that comes with facilitating an internship.
One common reason social workers balk at the idea of becoming a supervisor is the difficulty of managing the intern’s role from the onset. Consequently, initiating an internship can be difficult for both the intern and the supervisors.
Interns may find it difficult to know exactly where to jump in and contribute in an appropriate manner. The difficulty lies in knowing where to begin with the vast amount of tasks to accomplish; even in the first month of school. It is not like the crises, IEPs, and school life halts for interns and supervisors to catch their breath; which is why starting an internship can feel awkward and stagnate. So where and how do we begin? How do we improve the internship process? Illinois’ School Social Work Manual might provide some guidance to our question.
The folks at the Illinois State Board of Education created a manual for school social workers that entail a service priority list. A “service priority list” functions as a triage concept for the school social work profession. Other professions use similar models. Combat Medics and First Responders use a triage acronym called DIME, which stands for Delayed, Immediate, Minimal and Expectant. Like school social workers, the medical and law enforcement professions view triage as an ethics issue. The core of the triage philosophy is to deliver resources to those who objectively need them most. This isn’t just about the organization but about justly delivering services. Below are the 11 categories in order of importance from ISBE :
Determining the priorities and roles of a school social worker is already a complex process but defining the role of a school social work intern can be just as difficult.
Interns are not ready to jump in feet first into this profession, although, many of us were treated as such. For the sake of the intern and the students, they’re serving, it’s important to carefully manage the roles they take on the first few months of the internship.
So, what is the most appropriate role for an intern? What role should they take on first?
At the top of the service priority lists are the roles/services that require a high level of skill and have the highest liability. Starting a school social work intern with crisis response or special education services from the onset of the internship could result in some unfavorable outcomes for all parties involved. The role of an intern should be weighed by the level of skill required and liability issues related to training. Optimal roles for interns include data collector, interventionist and observer.
In this section, we will focus on an interns role as an “Interventionist” in the Problem Solving process. “Problem Solving” is one of the most common terms used for school systems connected to a tiered system approach. Problem Solving teams are constructed of administrators, teachers, speech pathologists, school psychologists, learning behavior specialists (or your state’s equivalent), parents and school social workers. Usually, these teams use a Multiple Tiered System approach to delivering interventions and allocating resources. These interdisciplinary teams develop short term plans using various interventions from a tiered system. The team develops a data collection strategy for interventions and schedules a follow-up meeting to continue, stop or modify the plan.
So why is the problem-solving process an appropriate entry point for an intern? When determining who can implement and monitor interventions, a team must take into account the level of training and certifications needed for those interventions. Turns out, there are several interventions that school social work interns can do! From data collection, observations, whole group SEL, Check In- Check Out (CICO), scheduled breaks, THINK Sheets and other various Tier 1 interventions, interns can be an important part of the problem-solving team.
The benefits of the intern’s involvement, combined with lower liability tasks result in a win-win for intern and supervisor. Intern perks include opportunities for teaming, data collection, reporting out (similarly to IEP meetings), relationship building with a caseload, classroom experience, collaboration with interventionists from different domains and involvement with a tiered system. Supervisors benefit from the interns’ extended role by being able to attend to other tasks that are higher up the service list. The time that a supervisor invests in the first month of the internship is (in most cases) paid back over the course of the year.
The need for the general education population is surging in the midst of our mental health crisis; interns can be a great help during this era of education.
In a poll taken on the IASSW Facebook page, the question was asked, “How many school social workers feel that their role as an “Interventionist” for RTI/MTSS is more demanding than their role in special education?”. Out of 108 respondents, 42% felt that SpEd was more demanding, 35% felt that RTI/MTSS was more demanding and 23% felt it was a 50/50 split. Limited as this poll may be, it speaks to the growing amount of tasks coming out of the problem-solving process to a school social work role that’s already overwhelmed. Once informed of their role and tasks, interns can alleviate a supervisor’s caseload. The recommendation to supervisors is to use the service list as a guide to systematically involve your intern to the many roles of a school social worker.
During this week’s hour of supervision, Supervisors will complete a “learning check” with interns in relation to the school and district approaches to problem-solving. The readership of SchoolSocialWork.Net spans across North America and the differences in problem-solving, state to state, differs greatly in some cases. Supervisors may need to provide some context between current practices and best practices. Using this confidence rater, supervisors can check to see how confident interns are feeling about their learning. If interns report high confidence on the rater, it may be helpful to have the intern explain the concepts they feel confident in. Supervisors can return to this confidence rater several times during the year to address any gaps in interns’ learning.
Using a Five Point Confidence System, interns will rate their understanding of the following: How confident are you…
1- Not Confident At All 2- Mild experience/Need Help 3- Growing in Understanding but still unprepared 4- Confident to explain to professionals but not mastery 5- Very Confident
1. To explain the school’s problem-solving process?
2. To explain the multi-tiered system as it applies to social work?
3. To explain the differences between Tier 1, 2 and 3?
4. To explain my role as an interventionist?
Join us next month for a Super Vision column that continues to discuss assimilation into the role of a school social work intern. The column will include supervision activities that help improve intern learning and supervision practices. Feedback and suggestions are welcome on our https://schoolsocialworkers.mn.co/ SSWNetwork social media platform. SSWNetwork is always free to join, and there’s over 2,200 of us there already!